Raw: Refugees From Iraq Reach Syria


Yazidi refugees fleeing Islamic militants in northern Iraq are streaming across the border into Syria. (Aug. 13)



Malikiya, Syria - 12 August, 2013

1. Various refugees in camp


A large number of exhausted minority Yazidis fleeing the Sinjar mountain chain in northwest Iraq after militants from the Islamic State group took over their nearby villages, have reached the Newroz camp in the Syrian Kurdish town of Malikiya.

After a long and perilous journey, they arrive with nothing left than the clothes on their backs.

The refugee camp, some 20 miles (32 kilometres) from the Iraqi border, is struggling to maintain standards while thousands more are expected to arrive requiring tents, medical attention and food.

According to Doctor Hazhar Abdullah Ahmed of the Kurdish Red Crescent, people are severely dehydrated and suffer wounds caused by the long journey.

"Nearly 100 percent of them have blisters on their feet, because they walked for a long time. In general they are very weak," he said on Tuesday.

He added that some had infected wounds caused by shotguns.

With an ever-increasing population in the camp, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is working hard to ensure everyone has somewhere to sleep.

"The situation in the camp is still kind of primitive," said Maha Sidky, the head of Field Office for UNHCR in Qamishli.

"But we're doing our best to upgrade the standard of the camp so that it is at least gaining their dignity," she said, adding that the estimated number of people in the camp stands at 12-thousand.

Locals have been trying to help by bringing clothes for the refugees to wear but it may not be enough, with thousands more refugees expected to arrive soon.

"We are talking about probably a hundred and fifty thousand people might be crossing. So we are trying to mobilize resources as much as we can to respond to the needs of those families and their children," explained Eltayeb Adam, the Head of the UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) office in Qamishli.

In the past few days, thousands of Yazidis have crossed back in to Iraq through a bridge on the Tigris river.

On Sunday Kurdish officials said at least 45,000 had crossed through the safe passage, leaving thousands more behind.

The Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking minority who follow an ancient Mesopotamian faith, started to flee to the Sinjar mountain chain in northwest Iraq on August 2, when militants from the extremist Islamic State group took over their nearby villages.

The militants see them as heretics worthy of death.

On Tuesday night, US Central Command said four US Air Force cargo planes dropped 108 bundles of food and water intended to help the trapped Yazidi civilians on Sinjar Mountain.

It was the sixth such humanitarian relief mission conducted by US planes since last week.

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